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Missouri: The Feed Me State

Courtesy Columbia Star Dinner Train

Great culinary experiences make lasting memories.

Whether your group craves finger-licking barbecue, a candlelit meal or family recipes passed down through the generations, Missouri has culinary experiences to satisfy their tastes. Add gourmet dining aboard a vintage train and a cooking class or two, and you have a well-rounded culinary adventure that travelers will enthusiastically discuss after their tour is over.

Columbia Star Dinner Train

The Columbia Star Dinner Train recaptures the romance of travel. Missouri’s landscape rolls by as your group dines in vintage 1930s and 1940s passenger cars. Year-round, the two-and-a-half- to three-hour trip departs for Saturday dinners and Sunday brunches.

“We’re one of only three trains nationwide that cooks on the rails,” said general manager David Tenny. “Every meal is hot, fresh and cooked to order, and we can tailor to any dietary needs. Most guests come excited about their ride on a vintage train and leave amazed at the quality of our food.”

Dinner excursions feature elegant four-course meals served by candlelight on fine china and white linen tablecloths. Chefs prepare gourmet entrees on board in a former Chicago Burlington and Quincy baggage car that has been converted to a full kitchen. Entrees such as prime rib with cabernet butter, trout amandine with chardonnay cream sauce and roasted chicken come with appetizer, soup or salad, rolls and dessert. Two bars serve beer, wine and cocktails.

Brunch starts with a shared plate of seasonal fruits, marinated vegetables and croustades. Next come homemade buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy, Belgian waffles and a classic breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, buttermilk biscuit and Potatoes O’Brien. To finish, each table shares a dessert plate of pastries and minimuffins.

Caledonia Bar-B-Q Company

Caledonia Bar-B-Q’s owner, Richard Jenkins, knows barbecue.

“I’ve had a judge from the Memphis in May barbecue contest come in and tell me that I know ribs,” said Jenkins. “He said I ought to enter their contest.”

There’s nothing fancy about the knotty-pine dining room, oilcloth-covered picnic tables and antique pictures of the U.S. presidents on the walls. Customers get plastic cutlery from a bin, and paper towels sit on each table. But that’s just fine because the food is the showstopper.

Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, tender beef brisket, and mouth-watering, hickory-smoked pork steak and chicken headline the menu. Sides include wife Brenda’s family recipe for potato salad made with bacon, green peppers, carrots, onions and real mayonnaise; creamy-style coleslaw; baked beans; and seasoned green beans. And then there’s dessert: homemade coconut-cream and chocolate-cream pies, peach cobbler and more.

Jenkins learned techniques from his father, who cooked over an open pit in the backyard. Meats cook all day on a smoker welded and built by Jenkins’ son.

“Everybody loved my dad’s barbecue,” said Jenkins. “And that’s my philosophy, too. I’m making barbecue that you would eat if you came over to my house, so I hope you enjoy it.”

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.